President Barack Obama unveiled a climate change plan in a speech Tuesday at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. A transcript of the speech is available here, and a copy of the president’s climate memo is available here.
In the speech, the president struck a far different tone than he did during the presidential debates last year. Back then, on stage during the debates, President Obama was a friend of fossil fuels, and he never mentioned climate change. Indeed, he tried to present himself to the right of Romney on energy policy. On Tuesday, he was a different man. He presented climate change as an existential threat to our children. At one point, he asked whether “we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.” I think it’s fair to question where the president’s courage was when he was up for election.
Another troubling aspect of President Obama’s climate plan is that it is avowedly authoritarian. In his speech, the president effectively declared that the Congress won’t enact climate policies, so he’s going to impose them. Sort of like a king. The president is using congressional inaction as a pretext for a power grab, and that is worrying.
The most important component of the president’ climate plan is an order for EPA to re-propose greenhouse gas regulations for new power plants and also propose such regulations for existing power plants. He didn’t specify what these regulations would entail, but there are clues that they will result in a ban on the construction of new coal fired power plants. For starters, EPA’s original proposal effectively outlawed new coal power plants, so it’s clearly an agency priority. Also, on page 19 of the president’s new climate plan, the administration states that, “going forward, we will promote fuel switching from coal to gas for electricity production.”
In addition to these regulations, the plan includes more subsidies for green energy, fuel efficiency standards for trucks, and federal expenditures on adaptation. The last one is the most dangerous of the three, because virtually any infrastructure improvement can be portrayed as necessary in the face of a changing climate. The upshot is that this adaptation initiative, in practice, would likely become a subsidy slush fund.